Forever Wild Meeting Highlights Program’s Strengths
Forever Wild protects more than 200,000 acres of the most unique outdoor recreation areas in Alabama. On Thursday, February 4, the board of directors for the Forever Wild Land Trust convened in Montgomery for their first quarterly meeting of 2016. These meetings are open to the public, and the board encourages public comments on potential land acquisitions and other issues related to the program.
At this meeting, representatives from organizations, businesses, and communities spoke up to share their own experiences with Forever Wild and advocate for the program and its services. Hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation bring in more than $2 billion each year to our state’s economy. Forever Wild lands allow local communities to capitalize on this market, and examples of those economic benefits were highlighted at today’s meeting. Below are short descriptions of these public comments as examples of the benefits of Forever Wild and its economic and social impact on the communities across the state that host Forever Wild properties.
- Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith praised the Rails to Trails program, stating that the local bike trails have improved his town’s quality of life and made Jacksonville a more marketable destination for businesses and residents. Jacksonville is part of the Chief Ladiga Trail, and Mayor Smith credits the trail for attracting visitors that support local businesses.
- Old Cahawba Archaeological Park advocated for the expansion of Dallas County’s Hall Tract to help in their efforts to showcase Alabama’s first capital city for the 2019 state bicentennial celebration. This land will also be used to preserve the hunting traditions that are so important to Dallas County and Alabama’s Black Belt Region.
- Jacksonville State University has calculated that Anniston’s Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail – located on their local Forever Wild property – has an economic impact of between $1.9 and $5.9 million.
- A proposed addition on Shades Creek would double the length of canoe trails on the Cahaba River, and would connect to the Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park. This would allow visitors to camp in the park and put their kayak or canoe in on the Forever Wild property, providing an opportunity for recreation that is convenient to both Tuscaloosa and Birmingham.
- The City of Gadsden has been awarded an Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs grant to construct more hiking and biking trails on their local Forever Wild property.
- Coastal Land Trust is seeking to preserve more land in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta through Forever Wild. The Delta is the foundation of Coastal Alabama’s seafood industry in addition to a recreation destination for both tourists and locals.
- The Alabama Hiking Trail Society offered their continued support to the board, and discussed their success in planning and building hiking trails across the state.
- The Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association advocated that the board move forward on a proposed land acquisition in Elmore County near Lake Martin for which they have a planned network of hiking trails.
The Forever Wild Land Trust preserves land for public use, including hiking, hunting, birding, birding, and horseback riding. Created in 1992, Forever Wild was renewed in 2012 for another 20 years by constitutional amendment that passed with more than 75% of the vote.